Minari, directed by Lee Isaac Chung (A24 Films, 2020, 115 minutes)
Arguably the best movie of 2020. Writer/director Chung tells a loosely autobiographical story that is both particular and universal about an immigrant Korean family trying to make a new life together in rural Arkansas. Humorous, heartfelt, real. (You can find an interview with Chung at Fuller Seminary’s reelspirituality.org.)
Munyurangabo, directed by Lee Isaac Chung (Almond Tree Films, 2007, 97 minutes)
Even those who have seen Minari may be unfamiliar with Chung’s first film, a story about reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda. In 2006 Chung had accompanied his wife to Rwanda, where she was working with Youth with a Mission (YWAM). He volunteered to teach a filmmaking class and, with non-actors and a non-professional crew, wove together the stories of street kids in Kigali. The following year, Munyurangabo was a selection at more than 10 international film festivals, including Cannes.
Film recommendations from Robert K. Johnston, professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary. Send your film recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Work and Worship: Reconnecting Our Labor and Liturgy By Matthew Kaemingk and Cory B. Willson; Foreword by Nicholas Wolterstorff (Baker Academic, 2020, 304 pp. $29.99)
How does Sunday worship relate to what people do during the work week? Too often, say authors Kaemingk and Willson, it simply doesn’t. In Work and Worship, they “explore how gathered worship on Sunday can help reconcile the modern divorce between faith and work” and offer a set of biblical, theological, and liturgical resources to help forge connections between these two oft-estranged dimensions of life.
Kaemingk, an assistant professor of Christian ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Willson, an associate professor of missiology and missional ministry at Calvin Theological Seminary, are both systematic theologians from the Christian Reformed tradition. While they write in an academic style, this timely book is intended for – and accessible to – pastors and worship leaders, workers themselves, and scholars interested in the bridge between labor and liturgy.
The authors write that their research and experience has convinced them that “theologies of work need to be practiced, embedded and embodied in communities of worship … Daily work should ‘show up’ in the community’s prayers and sermons, its songs and benedictions, its testimonies and benedictions.” In a year when so many individuals experienced layoffs, “career pivots,” and other vocational challenges, Work and Worship offers a lens through which to examine how congregational worship acknowledges and addresses this significant aspect of people’s lives – and to envision how it could be done better.
Staying Awake: The Gospel for Changemakers By Tyler Sit (Chalice Press, 2021, 264 pp. $14.99)
Staying Awake opens with a four-page comic titled “Why We Stay Awake.” At first, just the simple text and drawings stand out. Further review, however, reveals a deeper message. It’s an effective hook and a gentle introduction that’s consistent with the rest of this simple, profound book.
Sit is the pastor and church planter of New City Church in Minneapolis, a congregation that focuses on environmental justice and radical inclusion as a queer- and people of color (POC)-affirming place of worship. He’s a graduate of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, and a leader with the Forum for Theological Exploration. In Staying Awake, he shares nine practices New City has found meaningful and transformational: worship, centering marginalized voices, prayer, groups, sabbath, leadership development, generosity, planting, and wholeness.
Reflections and poetry from his community members appear throughout the book. In the epilogue, Sit describes his response to the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer – which happened two days before Sit was to submit this manuscript to his publisher, and less than two miles from New City Church – and the subsequent uprising. It’s essentially a case study in living out these practices.
For seekers and people unfamiliar with Christian tradition or church culture, Sit’s writing is accessible and explanatory. For committed Christians (at any stage), his words are spiritually and practically demanding. And apropos of the title, this book is like the ideal wake-up call on the morning you’re set to run your first marathon: urgent and encouraging. It’s an invigorating mix of “Take care because this will be tough,” and “You got this.”
The turmoil, disruptions, and suffering that the world has experienced during this past year or so has emphasized to me how absolutely imperative it is to try to be a peacemaker, to try to be compassionate and fair to all, and to strive for harmony and love instead of hate and divisiveness.”
— Christine Grady, nurse-bioethicist and chief of the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, in remarks after she and her husband, Dr. Anthony Fauci, received the “Blessed Are the Peacemakers” award from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago on April 28.